Has ‘cancel culture’ gone too far?

K Naomi and Kanye West are two celebrities whose opinions have brought them under fire in the past.
K Naomi and Kanye West are two celebrities whose opinions have brought them under fire in the past.

It comes as no surprise that we live in a time where cancel culture is the norm and people are finally being held accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, like most things involving the internet, it can be a double-edged sword, making me wonder whether ‘cancelling’ is a necessary act or one that can often be counterproductive. 

‘Cancel culture’ refers to the public shaming/ denouncement of an individual (usually a celebrity) on social platforms for behaviour that is considered ‘problematic’ i.e. racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. in an attempt to get people to stop supporting or affiliating with that person.

READ MORE: Could the Kardashians be cancelled? At over R6.9 million per Instagram post they won’t care 

‘Cancel culture’ has done wonders in calling out the unacceptable behaviour of some of the biggest celebrities and has even played a part in bringing justice to victims of rape, abuse, racism and more. Naturally, it has served us a ton of good and the fact that people are becoming more “woke” to issues of injustice is so refreshing, but it’s the way people have gone about ‘cancel culture’ lately that is not something to be proud of. 

I remember hearing someone describe ‘cancel culture’ as something along the lines of “cutting off a whole arm when you only have a scratch.”

Now let’s make one thing clear, there are many cases where ‘cancelling’ online or the concept thereof is warranted. Let’s say someone continuously spews hate speech or their actions are harmful to others and they make no attempt to learn from their mistakes or hide their bigotry/ homophobia/ racism under the guise of “opinions” or “beliefs”, then there is no reason anyone should support or encourage them. 

I feel that there are many other instances where cancel culture does good, and I am by no means a gatekeeper for what is considered problematic, but oftentimes calling out people online creates a ‘mob mentality’ where the person in question is given no chance for redemption, even when they are apologetic, show growth, understanding and maturity. People make up their minds about others and believe that they are their mistakes or past selves, even if they are actively changing their ways. 

We saw an example of this last week when local celebrity K Naomi, was "at risk of being canceled" after a tweet in which she mistakenly used ableist language created a momentary uproar on Twitter. She immediately apologised when the problematic nature of the tweet was brought to her attention, but still not without backlash.

READ MORE: Why it will be the best thing when cancel culture is cancelled 

There’s a lot more value in encouraging people to re-think some of their choices and unlearn behaviours. Now ‘cancel culture’ has become calling people out on their behaviour in a way that doesn’t aim to educate but rather argue, shame and even borderline bully. This does more harm than good because people are less likely to learn when they feel they are being dragged to filth.  

Bandwagon call-outs online are also quite common, where people see something and just agree with whatever is being said without further inspection or formulating any opinions of their own. This performative action does more harm than good.

What’s also particularly ironic about ‘cancel culture’ is that people are selective with their cancelling; artists like Kanye West who will say the most outlandish things can be ‘cancelled’ but a week later it’s somewhat forgotten and there’s a new person the internet supposedly hates.

READ MORE: Cancelling Kanye debate resurrected following his Church Clothes merch drop at Coachella

The inconsistency in itself shows how hypocritical ‘cancel culture’ can be. 

I feel that ‘cancel culture’ should be about teaching, allowing people to show growth and be better human beings as a result. Yes, it is not anyone’s responsibility to teach the next person what is considered right or politically correct, but even the slightest bit of compassion and acknowledging someone’s remorse and willingness to learn will do wonders.

Understand that human beings are more complex than their past transgressions and have the ability to grow. 

It’s totally okay to disassociate from people if whatever they said or did made you uneasy, but not allowing them an opportunity to change is quite frankly… unfair. Just a little something to consider next time you think of ‘cancelling’ someone. 

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our topical stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, I believed it was authentic
7% - 390 votes
Yes, I didn't want to spend that much money on the original item
20% - 1120 votes
No, I always shop at reputable stores
13% - 744 votes
No, I don't wear designer clothing
60% - 3349 votes